The reality of any relationship is that it will most likely come with an expiry date, and it’s also the one thing we deny vehemently to ourselves for as long as we can. Breakups are hard enough to deal with on their own, but the emotional (and physical) baggage that comes as an add on is even harder to shake off.
As I blunder through adulthood, I sometimes feel like most of our youth comprises breaking our walls down for our partners, then building them up again as the relationship crumbles. The cycle continues, but the healing process never gets easier, no matter how many times you have your heart broken. But heal we do. And the most magical thing of all is our resilience, the ability of our poor shaken, broken hearts to put unshakeable faith in the institution of love.
I haven’t had my heart broken very often, perhaps because I never allowed myself to be fully vulnerable with a lot of people. But the problem with people like me who don’t fall in love fast, is that when we fall, we fall hard. And I mean soul-crushing, gut-wrenching, earth-shattering love, that leaves an equally disastrous trail of debris if it fails.
When your love is as intense as they make it out to be in the movies, you either crash and burn or shine forever. However, if the crashing happens, as is the case with most relationships, it happens in a series of distinct phases, from what I’ve been through –
It begins with Denial. Funnily enough, no one gets to skip this phase. Even if you’re the person doing the breaking up. If not shock or typically what you’d experience as “how could he/she do this to me,” there is “how could this happen with me.” The questions lead to the transfer of blame. It’s never our fault. Eventually, the hows turn into Cants. It can’t be real. It can’t be the end. It can’t hurt so much.
But it does. As you accommodate to the size and shape of your particular grief, the second stage sets in, one involving intense retrospection.
This phase of Mourning is perhaps the most painful one, mainly because you’ll find yourself shutting out everyone else, and going over the details of every mundane second of your relationship in an endless loop. You’ll find yourself listlessly going through the motions, while mentally stuck somewhere in the past. Sadness will wash over you in waves, accompanied by self pity, and if you’re the self depreciating kinds, intense self loathing. The one way to break out of this phase is letting common sense win over your ego, and letting friends and family into your private Bubble of Pain that you’ve gotten almost comfortable in.
When you start sharing your grief, the most natural reaction is that of Hate, which isn’t surprising considering how you know by now, that there’s no going back. Rather than dealing with the millions of conflicting emotions one by one, it’s much easier to lump them all into a single ball of burning hatred. Hating takes considerable effort. It can be exhausting. Mindless hatred however, may seem like the only way out once you stop viewing your ex as a person and reduce them into a caricature of their former selves, suitably rechristened “Beast” or “Asshole,” whatever the case may be. For me, I noticed I’d refrain from acknowledging anything that even remotely linked to the relationship. You’ll avoid restaurants and museums, skip songs on your playlist, maybe even stop wearing that fabulous shirt because it reminds you of your first date.
Hate can spiral dangerously out of control, if you let it. When you let anger be your guiding force, you automatically stop claiming responsibility for your actions. Tempting as it is, at some point you have to gather up the pieces of your life post-relationship, square your shoulders and work on rebuilding yourself rather than trashing your ex. They are not the cause of everything that is wrong with you now.
Which brings us to Reconciliation and Acceptance. This is the transitional phase, the filler between normalcy and total chaos. You’ll probably find yourself unusually motivated, whether at work or at the gym or at a hobby you’d given up on a while ago. The creative surge is an outlet for your pent up grief, and is an excellent ego boost too. Because you’re so productive, you’ll feel good about yourself, which in turn make the past seem more and more inconsequential as time passes. Make the most of this phase. Although you’ll probably be convinced you can never have a love so overwhelming, so big, this is when you’ll also realise that you’re not dismissing the idea of love altogether.
And when you finally meet someone who makes your soul spark, caution goes straight out the window, and you’re back in the game – hopefully with a happy conclusion this time.
Some people believe in the concept of closure, but I think it’s just a social construct. We may get all the answers we thought we needed, all the explanations and justifications in the world, but ultimately, the power to move on lies only within us. Moving on in the true sense of the term will only happen when we realize that the control our former flames have over us is insignificant, because we’ve always had the ability to reclaim the power that was ours all along.